Canada's genetic heterogeneity an asset in cord blood banking

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					  CMAJ                                                                                                                  News
Canada’s genetic heterogeneity an asset in cord blood banking
Published at on Jun. 10.

             hen Kathleen O’Grady was
             pregnant with her first
             child, her Montréal, Que-
bec, physician was very keen for her
to donate her umbilical cord blood to
Héma Québec’s public cord blood
    The reason? O’Grady and her hus-
band form a mixed-race couple — she
is of Irish-French heritage while her
husband is an Ismaili-Indian from East
Africa. Worldwide there is a need for
ethnic and racial diversity of banked
cord blood for use in “regrowing” the
blood of people, especially children,

who have undergone chemotherapy or
suffer from some genetic diseases.
    In an effort to ensure “equitable ac-
                                                           International blood agencies search registries worldwide to find matches for patients
cess to transplantation,” the proposed                     needing transplants.
national public cord blood bank would
— as the Héma Québec bank is already
doing — focus on collecting umbilical                     hospital, cord blood banking was never       support the idea of a national public bank.
cord blood that reflects the population’s                 mentioned. And when she made a few               But private cord blood banking is
genetic heterogeneity. Also targeted                      efforts on her own to find out about do-     controversial. “Few pediatric transplant
would be First Nations and people from                    nating publicly a second time, she           surgeons endorse private cord blood
other distinct ethnic clusterings, who                    couldn’t find any information. Hence         banking in the absence of an identified
are seriously underrepresented in bone                    her umbilical cord blood from that birth     recipient, even for mixed-ethnicity chil-
marrow donor registries.                                  — so precious in Quebec — was dis-           dren for whom finding a suitably
    Canada has moved slowly toward                        carded, like the overwhelming majority       matched unrelated donor may be diffi-
creating a public cord blood bank, but “I                 of all cord blood in Canada.                 cult” (Pediatrics 2009;123:1011-17)
think that gives us an opportunity to set                    While physicians have for many                In a policy statement, Canada’s stem
up a thoughtful cord bank … to look at                    years c
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